waterfall agile [ˈwɔːtəfɔːl aj-ahyl]: the paradoxical phenomenon observed in large organizations where agile transformation is attempted to be delivered with waterfall project management
This is a follow-up article to earlier published Addressing the Irony of Waterfall Agile.
At Agile OD we get called in by client organizations to resuscitate stalling agile transformation programs. Waterfall Agile is a frequent pattern of failure we observe, and holding up the mirror to show why it’s a problem is often a big part of our effort with client leaders. Let’s break it down:
7 Telltale Signs of Waterfall Agile
1. Ex-co exempt
The first sign that worries me massively is when there’s no willingness from the leadership team to go through the agile transformation themselves. I mean, they’ll say that they’re part of the agile transformation, but if the executive committee is intact in shape and there are no plans to change it, I think it’s safe to assume they are considering the ex-co as sacred zone and left to be untouched.
So this is where I ask our coaches to flex their hybrid executive/agile/organizational coach muscles to the max and influence the whole C-suite to buy into the idea of trying agile.
If the leadership team starts talking about changing the cadence of their meetings (“Shall we try daily standups ourselves?”), reporting (“Shall we put up our own Kanban board too?”) and general attitude to anything (“How might we…?”), literally, now we’re talking!
2. Ran by PMO
In a functional, hierarchical organization, leaders make the strategic decision, and hand them down to the next layer of the leaders. Tactical decisions on how to fulfill this order is devised and decided by these next layer of leaders (middle management), and thereafter it’s their role to manage the execution further down the chain of command.